Shedding Light in Russia

Last night a torch was lit to mark the opening of the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi. While I commend every athlete who takes part in these games, I can't help but think of the many LGBT brothers and sisters I met on my recent trip to Russia who are persecuted daily just for being who they are. The Olympic Charter's sixth principle clearly states that discrimination of a person based on their immutable characteristics is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement. With this in mind I ask: how can the Olympics be held in a country that illegalizes, brutalizes, and marginalizes an entire group of people just for being who they are? Allowing Russia to host these games is a monumental hypocrisy that threatens to tarnish one of this world's greatest traditions. We must never allow such hypocrisy again.

But all is not lost. In the 1970s we learned from people like Harvey Milk who, when faced with similar discriminatory laws, urged gay and lesbian people to come out and let light shine in on their lives. He taught us that truth and light are on our side. This fact was confirmed in California in 2009 when those opposing equality were finally forced to walk into a court of law and testify under oath. Under the scrutiny of daylight, their arguments fell apart.

When light shines, the truth is made clear and progress toward full LGBT equality is realized, and the Olympic torch brings with it a helluva lot of light.

For the sake of those suffering in Russia and beyond, this moment must not be wasted. Over these next two weeks, I urge those within the glow of the Olympic flame, athletes, coaches, visitors, spectators and Russians alike, to live in bravery and speak their truth openly as LGBT peeople or allies of equality. History tells us that such valiant honesty can correct the record, dispel the lies and ultimately save countless lives.

These new laws in Russia were designed to create silence and darkness. The Olympic flame was built to shed light. With courage and heart from those on the ground, the light of the flame may yet prove one of the greatest heroes of these Olympic games.

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OutreachDustin Lance Black